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I wrote briefly about states, stages, maps and models in some earlier posts. What I’m writing about today is how I think such events should be interpreted.

First off, accessing a state or a stage, or gaining some minor attainment, is not really awakening. As anyone who has had success with states, stages, and minor attainments will testify, one’s everyday life experience doesn’t change much immediately after one of these events.

It’s erroneous to assume something like, “I had an experience of expansiveness and spacious awareness. So now I’m awakened.” Nor should one think, “I experienced everything on this particular map of consciousness, from start to finish. Therefore, I’m awakened.” One of the ways in which we can know that such experiences were NOT awakening are the way in which such statements are made. Saying, “I achieved such and such, and now I am awakened,” is a statement that should raise some red flags. If anything, the statement requires further clarification. What does one mean by saying I am awakened? If they communicate back that their individual person or personality has somehow attained something with which they can hang their hat, it should be written off. And unfortunately, map-based/state-based/stage-based paths have a tendency to promote such misunderstanding.

[Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read my About page, which clearly states, “Hello. My name is Sam Watts, and I’m awakened. That’s right, awakened – as in enlightened.” And I would hope that this statement was seen as cause for alarm. Something within you should be screaming, “IS THIS GUY FOR REAL? WHO DOES HE THINK HE’S FOOLING?” However, using the above criteria, such statements shouldn’t be taken at face value. Rather, one should take it as an opportunity to ask further questions. Those of you who have read the contents of this site know that I don’t think enlightenment is personal – nor do I think it’s totally impersonal. But I digress…]

Back to the issue at hand. So, if we aren’t to use states/stages/maps/minor attainments as criteria for awakening, what should they be criteria for? In my opinion, based on my own experience, such events are not signs of how enlightened you are. They are signs that show how well you are practicing a given technique. That’s all. If you get really good at concentrating, certain states will arise. If you get good at noting practice, certain stages will arise. If you’re good enough at moving through stages, momentary cessation will occur. These are signs that the technique is being practiced appropriately. But the signs are not awakening itself. Awakening is beyond the mere signs of proper technique development. The techniques, if practiced well, will in fact aid in process of the source awakening to itself via its own spontaneous expression. This has been supported by countless yogis over thousands of years. But we need to be careful not to mistake the view from the rest stops for the destination itself.

It’s not bad or wrong to experience stages, states, or other practice related events. They are as spontaneous as anything else, and will arise of their own accord. What’s important is to get over the idea that any of these events is what the path is all about. It’s best to remain somewhat indifferent toward these events. Grasping at them, or even actively pushing them aside, does more harm then good. Just know that they aren’t the point, experience them, and then keep practicing until the point of the practice becomes clear.